Help us Save Paliochora!

The ruined Byzantine city of Paliochora is one of the most important archaeological and cultural sites in Greece.  Like better-known sites such as Mystras or Meteora, Paliochora provides the visitor with an immediate sense of medieval Greek civilization.  Deserted now for nearly 500 years, the churches, houses, streets, and fortifications are still well enough preserved that they provide a valuable glimpse into the world of the distant past.

Remains of the church of Ayios Demetrios
Remains of the church of Ayios Demetrios

In addition, the history and the legends associated with Paliochora still play an important role for all Kytherians, both those who live on the island and those who live elsewhere in the world.  The story of the sack of Paliochora by the pirate Barbarossa and the murder and enslavement of so many people have left a powerful impact on all Kytherians.  Everyone knows the stories associated with the fatal attack, the desperate resistance, the miraculous salvation of those who found refuge in the church of the Panayia, and the slavery and return of those who were taken captive.  Likewise well known are the stories about the fantasmata (the ghosts that haunt the site) and the fanaraki (the mysterious lantern that is carried by spirits aimlessly along the road near Paliochora).  In addition, many of the modern villages and many of the families of Kythera trace their origins to Paliochora and the place has a special meaning for them.

A section of the fortifications at Paliochora
A section of the fortifications at Paliochora

Despite the importance of Paliochora, however, the site today is seriously endangered: the walls and buildings are falling down, visitors are in danger of falling into the deep ravines that surround the site, and unscrupulous individuals visit the site and steal roof coverings and architectural pieces from the churches and houses.  A huge modern road, paved most of the way, brings people easily to the site, yet there is no guard at Paliochora to protect the remains and the many tourists who wander around the quiet streets.

A look over Paliochora from the west
A look over Paliochora from the west

Roof tiles on one of the surviving buildings at Paliochora
Roof tiles on one of the surviving buildings at Paliochora

Kake Langada below Paliochora
Kake Langada below Paliochora

Unfortunately, there are currently no plans to preserve and maintain the site of Paliochora by the government authorities of the Greek state.  The officers of the Archaeological Service, responsible for this work, are engaged elsewhere and they have made it clear that they have no plans to protect and preserve the site. 

For this reason, some individuals, both inside and outside Kythera, have decided to work to bring the importance of Paliochora to a wider audience and to seek international support to "Save Paliochora."  Our goal is to raise awareness about Paliochora, bring appropriate political pressure to bear, and raise funds that will help in preserving Paliochora for future generations.  We are now forming an appropriate non-profit organization for this purpose (along the lines of the Committee for the Return of the Parthenon Marbles), and we seek support from all interested people.

For further information about progress in this undertaking, continue to look at this page for updates, or contact Timothy Gregory (gregory.4@osu.edu).

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